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I will never forget it -- an underdog team playing a heavily favored team in Super Bowl. The favorite had a quarterback in his prime that everyone was saying he had the opportunity to be the best ever. The quarterback had already won one Super Bowl and a 2nd Super Bowl would put him in the Montana discussion.
As the game played out it was very competitive, but the underdog pulled ahead late by seven points. Everyone thought the "Prime" quarterback would lead his team to a tying touchdown, but a funny thing happened, he didn't and the underdog won a Super Bowl that they seemed "destine" to win.
The date, January 25th 1998.
The "Prime" Quarterback was Brett Favre and the underdog team was the Denver Broncos.
Favre ended up breaking a lot of records, but he's never been back to the Super Bowl and, honestly, it is the only reason that many don't consider him the greatest of all time.
Fast forward twelve years and Peyton Manning had his chance.
His chance to be on that Montana level, to do what his main rival Tom Brady has done time and time again in the Super Bowls. It was right in front of him and he failed.
For full disclosure, Reggie Wayne could have run his route better but, no excuses, Manning threw a ball he shouldn't have.
Many years ago I coined the phrase "Choker Manning" because up to 2006 he had never won a championship on any level. In the biggest games of his career, up to that point, he had played his worst games.
The Quarterback position is about not just producing in the regular season, but performing in the playoffs. Manning finally won his ring, but as we chronicled in the "5 Reasons Super Bowl Prediction" he didn't have that defining moment.
He had that moment staring at him and he blinked. Legendary quarterbacks simply can not blink and throughout his career Manning has blinked a lot.
He is now 9-9 in the playoffs and 1-1 in Super Bowls. Brett Favre, the man who Peyton Manning will one day pass in the record books, is 12-10 in the playoffs and 1-1 in Super Bowls. Peyton Manning is a first ballot Hall of Famer just like Favre, but right now he isn't on the Mount Rushmore of Greatest Quarterbacks of all time.
Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time, but will never be considered "THE BEST" until he has that defining moment and wins multiple Super Bowls. He has every skill you would in a quarterback except that skill you can't define. Montana had it. Brady had it. Bradshaw had it.
When the lights were the brightest they played their best. The good news for Manning is that he has many years to redeem himself. Someone should ask Favre if he would trade some yards, some games played, some TDs to have a chance to repeat that final drive against the Broncos twelve years ago. I know he would.
Hopefully twelve years from now when Manning is nearing the end of his career he isn't wondering the same thing.
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